What if Kovalchuk Didn't Exist?

Kovalchuk's plan appears to involve drawing this out to the point that the fans of whichever team he signs with will actually hate him by the time he arrives. Rather than waste more time imagining a world with Kovalchuk in it, let's do the opposite.

  • There is no Kovalchuk.
  • The Kings are exactly as they are today.
  • The UFA market is exactly as it is, except for Kovalchuk.

What should Lombardi do, in this hypothetical Kovalchuk-less world?

Here's the roster:

Ryan Smyth - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams

LW2 - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown

Scott Parse - Michal Handzus - Wayne Simmonds

LW4 - Brad Richardson - RW4

Peter Harrold, F14

Rob Scuderi - Drew Doughty

Jack Johnson - D4

D5 - Matt Greene

Davis Drewiske

Jonathan Quick - Erik Ersberg

Key prospects: Oscar Moller, Andrei Loktionov, Brayden Schenn, Kyle Clifford, Jonathan Bernier, Rich Clune, Marc-Andre Cliche, Trevor Lewis, Viatcheslav Voynov, Jacob Muzzin, Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert, Corey Elkins, Ray Kaunisto, Bud Holloway.

King UFAs: Alexander Frolov, Fredrik Modin, Jeff Halpern.

Some UFAs, league-wide: Raffi Torres, Eric Belanger, Lee Stempniak, Willie Mitchell, Andreas Lilja, Adam Mair, Matt Ellis, Darryl Sydor.

Some players that may be available via trade: Vincent Lecavalier, the Philadelphia Flyers, maybe Jarome Iginla.

I'll tell you what I would do, but you have to play, too.

  • Trade Justin Williams and Martin Jones to Philadelphia for Simon Gagne and Ian Laperierre. One injured Philly guy for another better one won't upset Kings fans too much. Gagne can play on whichever top-six line Ryan Smyth isn't on. Lappy can play on the right of the fourth line.

  • Alternatively, trade Williams and Stoll and some picks/prospects for Iginla and put Iginla on Kopitar's wing. In this option, re-sign Eric Belanger to play on the fourth unit.
  • trade Erik Ersberg wherever, picks, prospects, a crotchety old d-man who is faster and younger than Sean O'Donnell. Doesn't matter. But get something for him.
  • Sign Andreas Lilja.
  • Let Muzzin, Hickey, Martinez and Voynov fight it out for the remaining d spot. I predict Muzzin wins this battle, but it's okay however it works out.
  • Clune, Cliche, Clifford, Nolan and King can duke it out for the two fourth line/healthy scratch spots. I would favor Clifford and Clune.
  • Let Moller, Loktionov, Lewis, Parse and Schenn battle for the one or two top-nine spots.

And it would look something like this:

Gagne - Kopitar - Simmonds

Smyth - Stoll - Brown

Schenn - Handzus - Parse/Cliche/Lewis

Clifford - Richardson - Laperriere

(Clune, Harrold)

Scuderi - Doughty

Johnson - Lilja

Muzzin - Greene


Quick - Bernier


Simmonds - Kopitar - Iginla

Smyth - Schenn - Brown

Parse - Handzus - Cliche/Lewis

Clifford - Belanger - Richardson

(Clune, Harrold)

Scuderi - Doughty

Johnson - Lilja

Muzzin - Greene


Quick - Bernier